You’ve got to love covering a team where the day before the season starts, you’re figuring out how best to get to Hollywood and Highland because the owner of the team is getting a star on the Walk of Fame.
Magic Johnson, Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss are all scheduled to speak as Jerry Buss is honored Monday. Snoop Dogg and Jerry West are two of the guests of honor. That’s a conversation not to be missed, if it ever happens.
We got the chance to sit down on Sunday with Jerry Buss and talk about all things Lakers. At one point, Buss even talked about the possibility of playing an exhibition game at the Forum in the future because he misses the old building.
There’s a ton of stuff that’s not going to make Monday’s paper. We’ll try to get it in here instead.
Buss on Kobe and Phil’s relationship: “Im very pleased with the total closeness of Phil and Kobe right now. Thats a beauty to watch at practice. I think thatll carry right over to the season. Theres a big mutual admiration society going on there.”
Buss on his relationship with Kobe: “I think my relationship with Kobe is closer now than it ever has been. . . .Hes a very cordial guy. Hes not withdrawn as he was in the beginning. Its fun to be around him now. He talks a lot of basketball. Its fun to listen to him.
Buss on ceding more control to his son Jim: “Ill give Jimmy more and more decisions every few months from here on out. But Ill always be right there by his side to make sure that Im in agreement, lets put it that way.
Buss on Lamar Odom: I believe Lamar could be as good as he wants to be. He comes within one or two statistics half the time of having a triple-double. You have to wonder if he wanted to do it – - just to get one more assist or another rebound or something – - and finish out the year with about 40 triple-doubles. Then I think everybody would know what Lamar Odom is about.
Buss on the Clippers’ success: “They have terrific material, no doubt. I think we figured out that they had (lottery picks 18 of 20 years), so its not a big surprise that they would eventually get some material. But it does surprise me that they kept it. Thats certainly a change in philosophy and probably a welcome one to the fans of Los Angeles.
Buss on Phil Jackson having a role with the Lakers after he is done coaching: Right now, I think well talk to him about extending the coaching (contract). When you begin to try to project four or five years out, it gets pretty tough. I really cant comment on it.
Buss on watching Shaq and Kobe bury the hachet before last January’s game at Staples Center: “I would love to have had them bury it while they were here. I dont know how everybody else felt about it, but that last year they were together was really painful for me, to watch teammates not be teammates.
Buss on Red Auerbach: “He was a psychology master. He just set you right up. I think that was very effective, the times that he beat the Lakers, because I think a lot of times the Lakers had the best material. But Auerbach was the deciding factor. Youve really got to hand to this guy. Fortunately, I had the chance to talk to him many many times in the early 80s. So I knew one of the legends.
Here’s the story for Monday, followed by another from practice:
By Ross Siler
There is a part of Jerry Buss that can remember marveling as he walked down Hollywood Boulevard as a younger man. There is a part of him as well that can remember setting out to build a basketball team that encompassed everything great about Los Angeles.
Both parts will come together today as Buss, entering his 27th season as owner of the Lakers, will be honored with the 2,323rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions in helping build the Prime Ticket television network.
That the Lakers have become almost as synonymous as the movie and television stars in the citys identity was not lost on Buss. One day after he is honored at the corner of Hollywood and Highland, the Lakers will open another season at Staples Center.
“I guess this to me is a vindication of the fact I was able to do that, Buss said, “and it makes me very happy.
In a half-hour interview Sunday with reporters at his home in Playa del Rey, Buss talked about the future of the franchise and offered his answer to the question he is most often asked, namely when the Lakers will win another championship.
“I think to be a championship team, youve got to have three really great players, and probably one at each position – - guard, forward and center, Buss said. “That seems to be the best formula. Now you say: How far can Kwame (Brown) come or will (Andrew) Bynum be that missing ingredient.
Buss was referring to the Lakers two biggest projects, both of whom happen to be centers. Brown was a failed former No. 1 overall pick during his time in Washington; Bynum was selected out of high school by the Lakers in the 2005 NBA Draft.
“With Kobe (Bryant) and Lamar (Odom), Buss said, “I think weve got enough ingredients that if we get the dominating center, I think we could win it.
Buss, 73, credited his son Jim, the teams vice president of player personnel, with being the greatest advocate for drafting Bynum when others in the front office were in favor of Channing Frye.
“I think you can lay it at his doorstep the fact that we gambled and took Bynum, Buss said. “He was the one out of all of us that said, `Hey, lets not fool around. Weve got to go with this kid.’
Buss said he would continue to bring more decisions to his son in the coming months “until hes making all of them. He added that he does not foresee a scenario in which ownership of the Lakers would not transfer to his children.
As for the Lakers last dominating center, Buss made clear that “there was nothing ever personal with me and Shaquille ONeal, who helped lead the Miami Heat to last seasons championship.
Buss said the Lakers would continue to pursue their goal of signing a big-name free agent. The Lakers would not have the salary-cap space to do so, however, until the summer of 2008 at the earliest.
Another problem has been that nearly every top young free agent – - from Yao Ming to Amare Stoudemire to LeBron James – - has opted to sign an extension with the team that drafted them.
The strategys not dead, Buss said. “It just means that were not going to put all the eggs in that basket as perhaps we did.
Buss praised general manager Mitch Kupchak for doing an “absolutely incredible job, especially in finding players with late first- and second-round draft picks, and said he would talk to coach Phil Jackson about extending his contract past the 2007-08 season.
If he wants to coach longer, Buss said, “then well certainly want to have him.
* * *
By Ross Siler
What looked like a starting five for the Lakers was on the court scrimmaging at the end of practice Sunday. Wearing the purple jerseys were Smush Parker, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, Andrew Bynum and a certain superstar guard testing his right knee.
Two days before the season opener, Kobe Bryant was figuring out just how much he could “trust his knee. He compared the process to dipping a toe in the water to see how cold it was and declared his knee better Sunday than the day before.
“I think its the best Ive scrimmaged, Bryant said. “I scrimmaged like this a couple practices ago that we had here (at Staples Center). But it was much stronger today.
“I was able to actually jump and try to contest a couple rebounds, which is good. Its still sore, though, but its good that I was able to explode a little bit today.
The Lakers havent determined whether Bryant will play Tuesday against Phoenix, but the sight of him fighting for a rebound with forward Brian Cook, then rising again to put back the ball was encouraging.
For the time being, Bryant will rely more on his outside shot and less on his quickness. He has had trouble turning the corner and accelerating off the knee. How much Bryant would be able to play Tuesday is another question.
“Hell let me know as to how it goes out there, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Hes by his own admission not sharp. Hes not making great plays or passes yet. His influence and athleticism on the floor is felt. We know that.
“I asked him if he was OK after being out there on the floor for an hour and a half, two hours almost, and he felt comfortable. It looked like conditioning-wise, he was in pretty good shape this time.
Remembering Red: Even into the final year of his life, former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach was taking shots at Jackson, criticizing the only other coach to have won nine NBA championships of “picking his spots in comments last November.
A day after Auerbach died at age 89, Jackson remembered him for setting “a standard that people wanted to achieve in this league and fought to try and duplicate. Auerbach was part of 16 Celtics championship teams as a coach and executive in his career.
“He was a fierce competitor. That Ill grant him, Jackson said. “I will say one thing that my mentor (former New York Knicks coach) Red Holzman turned to me after we won the Eastern Conference championship in 73 and said in reference to the Boston Celtics, `Theres sometimes you think good overcomes evil, and this is one of those times.
Jackson was asked if he was bothered that Auerbach never gave him his proper due.
“Thats not true at all, Jackson said. “Red and I had a conflict always because I was a New York Knick. So it was just the rivalry. Thats the way Red was. It was a rivalry thing. And its an honor that he had that kind of an attitude, actually. And its an honor to be named in the same breath when people talk about championships.
Roster moves: The Lakers have until 3 p.m. today to reduce their roster to the NBA maximum of 15 players. One consideration is the health of veteran guard Aaron McKie, who injured his back in the preseason and hasnt played or practiced since.